Wastewater heat deal struck between Avon, water district

An innovative system designed to use heat generated from wastewater treatment to melt snow and heat several town facilities, including a recreation center pool, is back on track after the mountain town of Avon struck a deal with the local water district last week.

In danger of losing a $1.5 million “New Energy Communities” grant from the Governor’s Energy Office because of disagreements over lease lengths and funding commitments, the town and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District finally worked out all the kinks and signed an intergovernmental agreement.

Town officials were concerned about committing $2.5 million to the project without a 40-year lease, but water district officials wanted a 20-year lease in case technology upgrades made the system obsolete. The two parties agreed to a 20-year term, and construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2010, with completion by June of 2011.

The Avon Heat Recovery Project will return cooler treated water to the Eagle River, while heating the Avon Recreation Center pool, the district’s wastewater treatment facility and providing heat to the town’s snowmelt system for its proposed Main Street pedestrian mall. Wind credits purchased through Holy Cross Energy will power the system, resulting in a near-zero carbon footprint, according to officials.

Avon Town Councilman Brian Sipes has proposed installing pipes beneath the new Main Street development in order to circulate hot water from a centralized biomass power plant that would run on wood chips from surrounding forests ravaged by a mountain pine beetle epidemic. Shops, hotels and office buildings could then tap into that system for radiated hot-water heat that could replace electric and natural-gas heating systems.

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